EDMONTON – For the first time, Edmonton’s Catholic archbishop is responding to the province’s recent education guidelines when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Archbishop Richard Smith is also calling out some Edmonton Catholic School Board trustees for “betraying the trust placed in them by Catholic electors.”
While this is the first time Smith has weighed in on the guidelines, his counterpart in Calgary, Bishop Henry, made it very clear where he stands on the government’s guidelines.
The guidelines focus on how schools should handle students and staff when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation.
Archbishop Smith says the guidelines contain many constructive, thoughtful and reasonable suggestions. However, he also says they make “many other suggestions based on an underlying principle that is simply not congruent with Catholic teaching; that self-identification is the sole measure of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
He also addressed the role of current Catholic school trustees, saying the majority serve “faithfully, ethically and responsibly.”
“It saddens me to say that this is not the case with some trustees,” Smith wrote. “There, for too long now, we have witnessed the inability of trustees to function in a cohesive way or speak with a unified voice.
“The words and actions of some trustees, rather than defending and upholding all that is good in the Catholic education, have caused harm and hostility.
“They have betrayed the trust placed in them by Catholic educators,” Smith said.
“I urge these trustees to review the ‘Trustees Code of Conduct’ to which they agreed, and reflect seriously on their commitment to the vocation of Catholic School Trustee.”
Education Minister David Eggen was also asked about the latest comments on this contentious issue Thursday.
“The archbishop’s letter is quite constructive,” he said. “Certainly it captures the spirit of working to come up with a solution that everyone can live with and to ensure that all students are in a safe and caring environment. So, things are carrying on and I expected them to and we are constructively engaged with all 61 school boards in Alberta.”
When it comes to the school board, Eggen said members are reflecting on how they can function better together.
“I think that the archbishop’s letter sent some pretty clear words to the board and I have done so too. We are moving down a path here that is very unfortunate, it has very serious implications.”
Eggen recently met with the facilitator and is evaluating how best to proceed when it comes to the board and its governance. He admitted this week dissolving the board entirely was an option.